By Fr. Michael Amesse, OMI
The Lowell Folk Festival is the 2nd largest free-admission festival in the USA. Th festival returned this year after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the festival, the city is closed to vehicular traffic and all center city streets become pedestrian walkways – festival events rotate at scattered venues throughout the city and merchants provide all sorts of amenities, not the least of which are ethnic food booths dispensing the cuisines of the varied ethnic communities that populate Lowell. Attendance at the festival is usually in excess of 100,000.
As in years past St. Joseph the Worker Shrine participated in the Festival by providing picnic tables outfitted with shade umbrellas arrayed along the area fronting the Shrine on Lee Street: an off-the-beaten-path gathering place where folks can cool down, relax and comfortably consume the delicacies they purchased at the many nearby food booths. Such oases are few and far between during the Festival.
Shrine Director, Fr. Mike Amesse, observed Fr. Gene Tremblay’s expertise in setting up an “oasis” for festivalgoers outside and inside the Shrine, and his impressions which were posted on Facebook are presented below.
TREMBLAY, as in Father Gene Tremblay. Father T did what he does best. He organized. Unlike civic organizations and parishes lining streets with women and men offering food from different cultures, he offered a different, gracious hospitality. After people bought good food there was no place to sit. Soon, however they spotted tables. They were lined up in front of the Shrine of St. Joseph the Worker. And they were in the shade. And the people could linger.
The Shrine doors were open. The AC was on. Brother Richard COTE gave them a guided tour. For the past 2 years Father Tremblay wrote to different Catholic organizations. He asked if they could send beads, prayer cards and statues. He asked people in the bulletin. They were quite generous. On rows of tables folks looked for souvenirs, packed neatly in baskets. “How much are they, Father?” Not a penny. Word got out that anyone could stop by, sit a spell, breathe some cool air in the Shrine, and pick up a souvenir.
The shrine gathered new fans. And we gave away old fans. McKENNA, OULETTE, Di AMATO funeral home donated hundreds of fans. The people could learn times for sacraments. That’s if they did not already know. And many who came by were not aware of what we offer. So, we presented what we had, to people at the Lowell Folk Festival. If it was not for Father Eugene Tremblay, OMI, it would not have gotten done. It was his way, not to leave a stone unturned.